saigon grill

On Tuesday, 36 deliverymen  won a $4.6 million judgment in back pay and damages against the owners of Saigon Grill for violations of federal and NY labor law.   The workers had been on strike since March 2007.

I’m torn on this one.   Sure it seems like the lowly wage-earner is getting their justice after toiling in an unrewarding job under harsh conditions.  On the other hand, Saigon Grill is not exactly owned by a distant franchise.  The owner, Simon Nget, was a Cambodian refugee who graduated from high school, and scrapped together enough tips and wages to open his own shop in 1991. Working his ass off, he opened Saigon Grill in 1996, expanded to the east side in 1999, moved the first location to Amsterdam in 2001, and moved the second location to University Place in 2006.  If this isn’t the American Dream come true (albeit in the form of delivering L14 with shrimp to all), I do not know what is.

Examining the facts, the deliverymen’s situation does not appear truly horrendous.  The deliverymen made $1.50/hr in direct wages.  That’s a pittance, but only just barely under the legal limit of $2.13/hr for tipped restaurant workers (source).  Meanwhile, the deliverymen were pulling in tip income, totaling in some cases, as much as $3,500 to $4,000 monthly! (source, p16)  Remember, this is under-the-table un-taxed cash income.

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